Six Tastes in Ayurveda

By Maria Hall

Ayurveda Counselor Student.

Ayurveda describes a balanced meal as one with six tastes, sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. According to Ayurveda, each taste is made of two primary elements. The six tastes and their elements are as follows:

SWEET

Sweet taste has earth and water, and examples of sweet tastes are rice, grains, milk,
wheat, ripe bananas, and pineapple.

SOUR

Sour has earth and fire, and examples of sour tastes are tomatoes, citrus fruits,
tamarind, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, fermented foods, and vinegar.

SALTY

Salty has fire and water, and examples of salty foods are sea weeds, celery, water
cress, spinach, mineral water, table salt and sea vegetables.

PUNGENT

Pungent has air and fire, and examples of pungent tastes are cayenne pepper, chili
pepper, ginger, garlic, wasabi, radish, mustard seeds, turnips, and cloves.

BITTER

Bitter has air and space, and examples of bitter tastes are dark leafy greens, dandelion root, bitter melon, turmeric, dark chocolate, and coffee.

ASTRINGENT

Finally, astringent has air and earth, and examples of astringent taste are lentils,
pomegranate, cranberries, broccoli, and rye. Now that you have an idea of the six
tastes, let me explain how they play a vital role in bodily functions.

Action of Sweet Taste

Sweet taste has cooling energy or “virya” and it helps to build tissues and relax the mind. It also soothes and nourishes the sense organs and gives the mind
compassion and satisfaction. An imbalance of the sweet taste creates attachment,
laziness, and heaviness. It also weakens the pancreas and causes thyroid
imbalances. Some common diseases due to excess sweet taste are diabetes, obesity
and low agni. According to Ayurveda, there are also six stages of digestion. The
first stage is the sweet stage, and it begins in the mouth with the digestion of
starches.
Action of Sour taste
Sour taste has heating virya and it helps to cleanse tissues, stimulates organs, and
increase absorption of minerals. An imbalance of sour taste increases anger, envy,
and passion. Some common diseases due to excess sour taste in the body are
infections, ulcers, thirst, and boils. Sour stage is second stage in digestion where
HCL is secreted making the food acidic. Digestion of proteins and fats begin in this
stage.
Action of Salty taste
Salty stage also has heating virya and this taste helps to improve taste, lubricates
the tissues, stimulates digestion, gives confidence, and builds enthusiasm. An
imbalance in salty taste creates greed, overambition and blood pressure. Some of
the common illnesses due to high salt in the body are kidney stones, swelling, skin
disease and hypertension. Salty stage is the third stage in digestion when food
enters the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. Acidic food is mixed with
alkaline secretions and bile resulting in salts.
Action of Pungent taste
Pungent stage has the most heating virya among all the taste and it stimulates
digestion and metabolism. An imbalance in this taste results in anger and boldness.
Some of the common illnesses because of the imbalance are dry cough, low
energy, and reproductive issues. Pungent taste is the fourth stage in digestion, and
it occurs in jejunum, the second part of the small intestine. The fire element present
in the taste increases the heat and circulation. Air element facilitates intestinal
peristalsis and creates gases.
Action of Bitter taste
Bitter taste has the most cooling virya. It detoxifies the tissues and stimulates
digestion. An imbalance of the taste can create dissatisfaction and loneliness.
Constipation is a common cause of bitter taste imbalance. Bitter stage is the fifth
stage of digestion when food enters ileum, final section of the small intestine. Air
element in the bitter taste creates peristalsis and there is rapid absorption of
nutrients.
Action of Astringent taste
Astringent taste has a cooling virya. This taste is responsible for drying the fat,
tightening the tissues, removing excess heat, and reducing sweating. An imbalance
in this taste causes insecurity and fear. Some common diseases caused by
imbalances of this taste are anemia, insomnia, gas, bloating, low blood pressure
and constipation. Astringent taste is the sixth and final stage of digestion where
ileocecal valve opens and food enters the cecum, the first section of the large
intestine. Absorption of minerals and liquids occur, and feces is formed by the
earth element in this stage.
Now that you understand how the six tastes play a vital role in the digestion
process, I hope you will remember to incorporate all six tastes in every meal